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A tour of Caerleon with Maka Khesuriani, Nana Doghonadze,
Aana & Pati Chankvetadze





On Saturday the 8th of September I met the four ladies of the Kutaisi delegation at The Priory Hotel in Caerleon. It was a proper September morning after the dreadful summer we have had- with an autumnal mist caused by the high pressure. I had been in over 30 degree heat in Kutaisi a few weeks before so I had to apologise for the chill. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of English spoken by the 2 non-speakers - Nana and Maka - and one of them said it was the “English fog”: she had obviously come across this as one of the stereotypes of British weather. As we know this has largely come from the “pea-soupers” of London which disappeared with the coal fires in the sixties.

I was able to confidently predict that we would have a beautiful day in less than an hour.

As a proud resident of Caerleon I decided we would start with a very reduced history of our lovely village. The ladies were very impressed with the prettiness and age of the buildings adjacent to The Priory- not least of the hotel itself. They were interested to hear what a priory was.

We went down to the quay next to The Hanbury. I showed them the ford by the bridge which is the reason why the legion based itself in Caerleon. They were interested that the origin of the name of Caerleon. They were amazed at the number in the legion- 6,000- and that I had seen a map of Roman Britain showing 5 principal places and one of them was (modern day) little Caerleon. The thing that most fascinated them was that some people think Caerleon is Camelot. They had heard of this mythical figure which I compared with the Knight in the Panther Skin. They were most impressed that the Poet Laureate, Tennyson, had written part of the Idylls of the King in the Hanbury.

One very amusing aspect of showing them the quay from which ships used to go to Bristol (which they had visited several days before), until the building of the  “new port”, was the direction of the river. I explained it flowed to the right to reach the sea but at that moment it was going to the left. Consternation! I had a little difficulty explaining that this was the effect of the tide - no such issue with the River Rioni at Kutaisi, so they didn’t even know it could happen. Once they understood they were most amused by a river in reverse!

On the way back to the centre of Caerleon I decided to stop for a photo-op in Fwrwm. Having been in the company of our Georgian visitors before  (and, to be fair, all tourists) I knew they would want photos of themselves in front of suitably foreign locations and strange foreign things: of course, there were plenty of these in Fwrwm. Poses were struck in front of all the statues and curios in the grounds - including Y Ddraeg Cwmreig. They loved it: Russell would have been so proud. Serious consideration was given to buying a love spoon or two.

Our main target was the Roman Baths. They were impressed by the sheer size of it- which confirmed the idea of 6,000 living here. They loved the open swimming pool  and its clever use of lighting and sound. The legionary helmet was seized upon- all 4 ladies enjoying being snapped with its red plumes. They absorbed all the technical information about the importance that the Romans attached to the culture of bathing- so far from Rome. They loved the mosaics.

Four very satisfied Georgians repaired to The Priory for another photo shoot in front of the hotel.

Mike Singleton